Scientists have discovered the strongest evidence to date that Venus is still a geologically active planet. An international team of researchers has identified 37 volcanic structures on Venus that were recently active.
Study co-author Laurent Montési is a professor of Geology at the University of Maryland.
“This is the first time we are able to point to specific structures and say ‘Look, this is not an ancient volcano but one that is active today, dormant perhaps, but not dead,'” said Professor Montési.
“This study significantly changes the view of Venus from a mostly inactive planet to one whose interior is still churning and can feed many active volcanoes.”
While Mars and Mercury have cold interiors, they also have older surfaces than Venus. Scientists have previously suspected that Venus may have a warm, active interior due the presence of coronae. These ring-like volcanic features form when plumes of hot material rise from deep within the planet through the mantle layer and crust.
However, it has been widely accepted that the coronae on Venus are probably signs of ancient activity, and that the planet eventually cooled enough to bring this activity to a halt.
For the current investigation, the researchers modeled activity beneath the surface of Venus to create high-resolution, 3D simulations of coronae formation. The simulations have captured the process of coronae formation in unprecedented detail. As a result, Professor Montési and his team were able to identify features that are present only in recently active coronae, and identified these specific features on the surface of Venus.
The study reveals that some of the variation observed in coronae across the planet represents different stages of geological development. The research provides the first clear evidence that coronae on Venus are still evolving, which means the planet’s interior is still churning.
“The improved degree of realism in these models over previous studies makes it possible to identify several stages in corona evolution and define diagnostic geological features present only at currently active coronae,” said Professor Montési. “We are able to tell that at least 37 coronae have been very recently active.”
The active coronae on Venus were found to be clustered together in several locations. This shows where the planet is most active, providing important clues about active processes deep in the planet’s interior.
The study is published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer